Interfaith charity confirms closure after the withdrawal of government funding

Charity

An interfaith charity has confirmed it will close after the government withdrew a £155,000 funding offer.

The Inter Faith Network for the UK, which works with national faith community groups to advance understandings of different religious groups, said it would close and seek ways to preserve its legacy.

The IFN has three full-time staff members, one part-time employee and some bookkeeping assistance through an employment agency, it told Third Sector, all of whom have been on redundancy notices since December.

The notice periods for permanent staff have been extended until mid-April, when operations are due to cease under current plans. 

The part-time staff member will finish at the end of March, and the agency staff members’ work will end in the coming weeks, the IFN added.

The closure is linked to the government’s withdrawal of a £155,000 funding offer, first made in July.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed yesterday that the funding was withdrawn because one of the IFN’s trustees was a member of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body that the government had a long-standing “policy of non-engagement” with.

The charity said it had received a letter from Michael Gove, the communities secretary, saying: “Whilst I recognise that the MCB was already a member of the Inter Faith Network when the previous offer of funding was made, I find their membership regrettable and it is deeply concerning that an MCB member could be appointed into your core governance structure.

“This increases the proximity between government funding and an organisation (the MCB) with which the government has a long-standing policy of non-engagement.

This is even more important in the case of funding for a prominent and nationally active organisation such as the IFN, which would carry too great a risk of compromising the credibility and effectiveness of that policy.”

In a statement, the IFN said: “It is deeply disappointing that despite IFN having stood ready throughout the process to have dialogue with the government, no opportunity was offered for that and that – over seven months after the offer of funding (subject to conditions) – withdrawal of funding appears necessary to Mr Gove.”

It added that its board has “sought to diversify IFN’s funding base” but the work done by infrastructure organisations is “not eye-catching and easy to fund and does need some financial support from government”.

The statement noted that the IFN had responded to Gove’s initial letter about his concerns with a “careful and considered response” and that there had been “widespread support and concern at the potential loss of the IFN”, but neither has prompted Gove to reconsider his position.

It said: “Therefore the organisation is now on the path to closure and IFN trustees and staff will be working to bring the organisation’s work to a close and to preserve its legacy in ways that enable others to build strongly on that in the future.”

The government’s decision to withdraw funding prompted widespread concerns from voluntary sector leaders and MPs voiced fears about the charity’s expected closure in parliament yesterday.

Jane Ide, chief executive of the charity leaders body Acevo, said: “To hear the news of yet another infrastructure body closing due to a lack of funding is heartbreaking, and particularly so when the cause that the Inter Faith Network has served for so many years is clearly more needed than ever.

“At a time when tensions around faith are heightened on the global stage it is deeply saddening to see the work of the IFN come to such a sudden and untimely end.”

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